6 Common Misconceptions about Teen Dating Violence

By Bessie McManus, Development + Communications Intern 

As we settle into the New Year, we reflect on how far we’ve come in the last 365 days, and we make notes of our New Year's Intentions. One of our intentions around the office at Steps to End Domestic Violence is not only to continue raising awareness of DV in all its forms, but also to clear up any misunderstandings about it because the issue is complex and can be confusing.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, or TDVAM, and we’re here to speak to some of the common misconceptions surrounding this very real problem:


According to loveisrespect.org, 1 in 3 teens will experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by a partner. Abuse is traumatic and has serious adverse effects on survivors as they navigate adolescence and enter into adulthood.

According to loveisrespect.org, 1 in 3 teens will experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by a partner. Abuse is traumatic and has serious adverse effects on survivors as they navigate adolescence and enter into adulthood.

While we may not experience the same emotional rollercoasters as teens, these feelings are real and throwing young romance into the mix adds another stressor. Dr. Wyndol Furman, an editor of The Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence, refers to adolescence as “a roiling emotional caldron whose major fuel -- more than parents, peers or school and almost as much as those things combined -- is [their romantic partners.]'' Teens’ lack of emotional control can make setting boundaries and having healthy relationships difficult, so it is important that we validate their feelings so we may better understand them.

While we may not experience the same emotional rollercoasters as teens, these feelings are real and throwing young romance into the mix adds another stressor. Dr. Wyndol Furman, an editor of The Development of Romantic Relationships in Adolescence, refers to adolescence as “a roiling emotional caldron whose major fuel -- more than parents, peers or school and almost as much as those things combined -- is [their romantic partners.]'' Teens’ lack of emotional control can make setting boundaries and having healthy relationships difficult, so it is important that we validate their feelings so we may better understand them.

Many teens aren't familiar with the signs of abuse. What may first appear as endearing and thoughtful can quickly turn into controlling and manipulative. This is why it’s vital that we have these conversations--to educate folks so they know when their partners behavior has gone too far.  

Many teens aren't familiar with the signs of abuse. What may first appear as endearing and thoughtful can quickly turn into controlling and manipulative. This is why it’s vital that we have these conversations--to educate folks so they know when their partners behavior has gone too far.  

Survivors may withdraw and disassociate from their friends and family because they are afraid; it can be hard to tell when someone we love is being abused because they might be hiding it. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step helping survivors.

Survivors may withdraw and disassociate from their friends and family because they are afraid; it can be hard to tell when someone we love is being abused because they might be hiding it. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step helping survivors.

In a perfect world, convincing those experiencing abuse to separate themselves from their abusers would be as simple as saying, “you don’t deserve this.” The reality is, however, that we have to choose our words carefully. At Steps to End Domestic Violence, we work to empower survivors rather than offer advice or interject with personal opinions.  Remaining calm is hard when someone we love is hurting, but we want to cultivate an environment conducive to feeling safe and understood.

In a perfect world, convincing those experiencing abuse to separate themselves from their abusers would be as simple as saying, “you don’t deserve this.” The reality is, however, that we have to choose our words carefully. At Steps to End Domestic Violence, we work to empower survivors rather than offer advice or interject with personal opinions.  Remaining calm is hard when someone we love is hurting, but we want to cultivate an environment conducive to feeling safe and understood.

According to DoSomething.org, only one-third of teens involved in abusive relationships tell anybody.

According to DoSomething.org, only one-third of teens involved in abusive relationships tell anybody.

So what can we do? We can start conversations with teens before they start dating. We can teach them what a healthy relationship looks like and open the lines of communication so that if a teen does enter an abusive relationship, they will have someone to confide in.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing intimate partner or dating violence, call our 24-hour hotline at (802) 658-1996.



Get Out


The following poem and its accompanying video were created by a domestic violence survivor. Please note potential triggers in these pieces and the power in their messaging. 

I know what you are going thru! Because they say it takes one to know one and I know you.

I once was that one out of three statistic. Charm had me blindsided that I neglected the non-physical characteristics.

You know; a little control, and a little jealousy that used to be “CUTE” were sooner replaced with daily disrespect. Injecting me with insecurities that flourished in an already abandoned me.  Saying things like “you’re ugly, you’re slow and no one wants you”.  I believed it while analyzing the pieces that were wrong with me. I didn’t deserve that disrespect. Looking back I know the goal was to change my mindset

Demeaning jargon lead me to devalue myself and the confidence that once existed

My head shaved meant no more hair pulling to keep me hostage

As if that wasn’t sufficient

My mind had been convinced and manipulated to accept everything that was being served and every time a hand projected my skin I felt it was deserved.

My feelings were all tied up and bound and buried like distant and unforgiving memories.

Granting one full access to my emotions and feelings. Creating a tsunami of reflections that I was never to be but here I am.

In this makeshift woman made weather where every day it thunders and the lightening is just as quick as a fist. With enough destruction that is almost apocalyptic! When a surrender is easily detonated with fury and I am in its sight and path, except that explosion I can’t miss.

Because if I’m ugly and good for nothing than I guess this is as good as it gets for me I  knew I needed to leave sooner than eventually. But with no plan, no job or money and family support. I couldn’t just jump ship. I couldn’t be homeless so I failed to report

I contemplated suicide many times but by my hands I couldn’t. So with every fist or object jabbed into my flesh, I held my breath and I whispered just do it.

Suicide became me.

With Thoughts of my cold lifeless body on the floor

I envisioned of DO NOT CROSS secured on the door

For me to escape this abuse war I had to proceed

So I fought less. I began embracing what should have been my “END”.

Fights always turned physical and that day my Head was first to the cold concrete wrapped in a grocery bag stealing my main source of life. I began fading and grasping that one moment of freedom in my savored last breathe.

This is the moment that I savored the fruit of abuse, another statistic I am, another lover’s quarrel they will say. Another gullible woman she should of left anyway

But in the midst of the battle there was a shift.

Clarity and survival gave me enough devotion to live. I was the enemy without a plan. Clear exit to the door. Scared every footstep could have been my last and so I ran.

Determined not to look back because looking back was going backwards and backwards would have ended my lifespan. I could finally live and take a stand.

For the first time in years, fighting thru tears of joy I never felt and happiness I wasn’t allowed I stand proud.

Today I am wounded but undefeated.

Every day of life is a reminder that I am a survivor.

So for you I understand what you’re going thru

Fight your way out

No more secret silence and cover ups

No more deprivation by being a commodity

Mrs. Liberation

You are Beautiful, loved, special and courageous

More future than past

The addition to being equivalent

Breaking down the walls and barriers and saying enough is enough to of the Verbal, Mental, and Physical imprisonment

Full Bellies, Full Hearts

Making meals for families at the Steps to End Domestic Violence shelter brings a new sense of meaning to Heidi's life. Since January, she and her colleagues at PedsOne and PCC in Winooski have been preparing delicious meals for shelter residents twice each month. Before there was something missing, Heidi said, but since she began dropping off green beans, tacos, and a variety of other meals, she feels fulfilled.

This endeavor started with just Heidi. One person, who had heard about us and wanted to do one small thing to help. She casually mentioned it to a colleague who dove in. Now, it has expanded and Heidi's entire team at PedsOne and PCC. Through it all, Heidi has made at least one dish every other week since January, resulting in 22 meals donated to Steps to End Domestic Violence.

Even Heidi’s four-year-old daughter participates in the cooking. Together they talk about the importance of being involved in one’s community. Her daughter wants to make sure that the children who are living in shelter have something just for them in every meal. Last week, she picked out cookies with M&Ms. They were a hit!

It feels great when a group in our community spends time putting together a meal for shelter. Heidi, PedsOne, and PCC have filled the bellies and hearts of those we serve.

We are so grateful for their tremendous generosity and dedication to ending domestic violence with us, one meal at a time.

Spotlight: Self-care tips from advocates

It can be hard to carve out some time for yourself, but self-care isn't selfish!

Our direct service staff know this and they wanted to share with you some of their favorite self-care activities: 


“Go to the movies and unplug.”

“Watching movies with the fireplace on with my dog after eating a home cooked dinner.”

"I make a cup of tea, light some candles and snuggle with my cat."

"I go and buy my favorite ice cream or dessert."

"I call a good friend and just talk about nothing in particular."

“I like to take baths with a bath bomb. I like to catch up on reading, especially lighter reading (non-trauma stories). I like to binge watch one of my favorite shows, usually Gilmore Girls. I love to sit down with a great cup of coffee and a book either by the window or outside.”

“I like to play games either by myself or with friends.”

"In the summer, I like to lay out in the sun at the beach or my backyard and read."

“I like to read a book with my son.”

“I cook a delicious meal.”

“I like to write thank you notes to my friends and family, take my puppy to the dog park and watch the show, “Parks and Recreation” for inspiration on how to be more like Leslie Knope (my hero).”

“I like to snuggle with my dog.”

“Sometimes I turn my phone on silent mode and relax.”

“I enjoy going on long drives with my dog.”

“I like to go out to eat and have comfort food like French fries or shepherd’s pie.”

“In the summer, I like to fly a kite near Shelburne Pond. It’s really beautiful there.”

“I like to go on brewery tours in Vermont with my husband and friends.”

Learn more about: Self-care

Town Meeting Day

Town Meeting Day in Vermont is Tuesday, March 7! Let your town know you support those affected by domestic violence. We put together a fact sheet on how many people we served last year in your hometown! 

Did you know we receive funding from many of the towns and cities in Chittenden County?

Please bring one of the below sheets to your hometown's meeting and share it with your neighbors and elected officials. You can also post your hometown's statistics on your Front Porch Forum!

Encourage your town or city council to allocate funds to Steps to End Domestic Violence!

By raising awareness, you can help end domestic violence.

Find your hometown:






Essex Junction







South Burlington

St. George






Do you have any questions? Contact us

Zumba® Brings People Together

Zumba® Brings People Together 

Jessica Hall is a local Zumba® fitness instructor and is this year’s Zumbathon® instructor coordinator. We asked Jessica to share with us why our Zumbathon® is so special and what Zumba® fitness means to her.

The Steps to End Domestic Violence Zumbathon® is the biggest Zumba® event in Vermont and, whether as a student or an instructor, it’s always been a “don’t miss” party. It is in its NINTH year! And it has it all, including instructors from all across the state, lights, cameras, crazy costumes, shenanigans, new routines, prizes, you name it! Not to mention that there’s no other feeling like rocking out to some INCREDIBLE music with a few hundred pals! But that’s not all this party is; first and foremost is that it benefits a good cause.

As someone who witnessed domestic violence as a child and young adult, I know the negative impact that domestic violence can have on a person. People need to understand that organizations like this change people’s lives. These services are imperative to victims of domestic violence and give them the tools that they need to survive and thrive and to move on toward a brighter future.

The opportunity to take this passion for Zumba® and use it to help raise money for Steps to End Domestic Violence means the world to me. I am beyond grateful to be a part of it. 

I began my Zumba® journey nearly 8 years ago. I was a Mom of three children and worked full-time. I was 36-years-old, stressed, quickly becoming out of shape and desperately needing something just for myself. I saw a sign posted outside of a dance studio in Swanton advertising Zumba® classes. I thought “why not” and showed up the following week.

I had no idea what to expect when I showed up there by myself, with no dance background whatsoever and with no exercise since before I was pregnant with my then 9-month-old daughter. I was nervous and unsure, to say the least, and had to take some deep breathes before heading inside. What if I looked ridiculous? Would I be able to make it through a whole class? Would I know anyone? What if I was a distraction to other people there? 

When I got inside I was greeted warmly by the instructors. I took a spot in the back and class began. I got winded quickly, had a hard time doing both the arm movement AND the legs and was undoubtedly the NEW person in the room. But the instructors kept right on cueing and I was able to get a good workout and feel like I had success with the movements. And the music, oh that music; that feel good, get sassy, empowering, uplifting music. It made me forget that I was working out, that I was screwing up, that I had laundry at home, stress at work and EVERY other stressor in my life. For that glorious hour it was the instructors, me and the music-that’s IT. After just one class, I was hooked. My life has changed for the better since then!

Zumba® has given me so much over the last 8 years. I’m more coordinated these days, thankfully! It’s made me more confident, it’s reshaped me physically, it’s reshaped me mentally, it’s my joy, it’s my therapy and it’s my passion. The network of people that I have met through Zumba® STILL blows my mind!

People of all ages, fitness levels, gender, race, religion, creed and color ALL fit in in a Zumba® class. Zumba® brings people together in joy and fitness in a way that I have never seen before. These classmates become part of your Zumba® family as well. We’ve celebrated birthdays, going-away, weddings, baby showers, graduations-you name it. We have laughed, cried, supported and cheered on together. 

Most importantly, the impact of the Zumbathons® hosted by local instructors for charity is mind blowing.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for both national and local organizations and that’s been from just here in Vermont! Zumba® brings people together, especially when it’s for a cause.  I am so honored to be part of the passionate, generous, caring, socially conscious group of Zumba® instructors that we have here in Vermont! We all do some pretty amazing things when we come together!

Register for the 9th Annual Zumbathon®

Photo courtesy of Tim Stowe Photography

Peer Advocates Help Prevent Teen Dating Violence

The Peer Advocacy Program at Steps to End Domestic Violence recruits and trains high school students to serve as educational resources and support systems around dating violence in their school communities.

Marissa Pelino and Will Jewkes are Peer Advocates at South Burlington High School. They work with Emily Fredette, Education and Prevention Coordinator at Steps to End Domestic Violence, to implement programming and provide support to their peers. This is Marissa’s second year serving in the program and Will’s first.

Q: Why did you get involved with the Peer Advocate Program?

MP: I was at the career job expo where my friends were tabling for the program. Since they were graduating, they asked me to get involved. I’m glad they did because it’s given me a sense of purpose and made me realize that I want to continue to work with organizations like Steps. 

WJ: I’m friends with Marissa so she asked me to do it with her. I also wanted to learn about the warning signs so I could recognize and stop domestic violence in my own life.

Q: Why is the work you do important and what have you learned?

MP: It’s important because as a teen it’s hard to convince yourself that this is a problem because if no one’s talking about it and you can’t find the confidence to get out of the situation. It’s also much more common than I realized as dating violence impacts 1 in 3 youth so knowing that others are going through the same thing makes it easier to speak out.

WJ: It’s important because it lets our peers know that this is a caring and supportive community where issues like teen dating violence aren’t swept under the rug, especially when your own friends are in an abusive relationships or are abusing you since violence can be in any relationship.

Q: What do you do as a Peer Advocate?

MP: We make announcements about the different awareness months such as domestic violence in October and teen dating violence in February. We also hold events such as the prom dress drive and Purple Ribbon Day. The most rewarding part of my work has been sponsoring a child with my family for  Steps holiday program.

WJ: A lot of what we do is tabling during different events and in the school lobby during lunch. It’s really rewarding to be a resource because peers often feel more comfortable talking to other teens before they go to an adult. I think the stigma of teen dating violence is one of the biggest challenges that impact the work we do.

Q: What events do you having coming up?

MP: Since February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, we’ve gotten the hockey players at our school to wear orange laces during the games in support. We’ll be tabling at the games and hope that the people who attend will also wear orange to support us.

WJ: We’re also planning a wear orange day at our school on Valentine’s Day to help spread awareness about teen dating violence.


Your support can help end dating violence: Ways to give


DOUBLE Your impact on #GivingTuesday

SAVE THE DATE November 29 is #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is an international day of giving the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Last year on #GivingTuesday we raised over $13,000 in ONE day!

Like” our Facebook page for campaign updates and ways to give!

DOUBLE YOUR GIVING. If you give on November 29, all donations will be matched up to $5,000 by our Board of Directors!

This year we need your help to raise $10,000 in ONE DAY to support our legal advocacy program.


Provides assistance in filing relief from abuse orders, and in navigating the legal system around issues such as divorce, immigration, child custody and child support
Offers a weekly free legal clinic with attorneys offering information and advice
Legal advocates helped 251 people file relief from abuse orders last year alone.

“Thank you so much for taking so much time to talk with me; I went from being really scared and not able to think about what I was doing to feeling a lot better and able to put my foot in the water.” 
-Quote from a woman who recently received legal advocacy


One woman has been utilizing our legal clinic as she prepares for her abuser to be released from prison. Part of her safety plan for her and her children includes court orders that will help to ensure the family’s safety and provide consistency and predictability for the children. She is unable to afford an attorney, and because of severe post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the abuse she endured for several years, she has been unable to work and has had to rely on public assistance. Through her Reach-Up case manager and the Department of Corrections, she found out about our legal clinic where she could meet with an attorney for free.

Her abuser was being released after serving 5 years for an aggravated domestic assault with a deadly weapon. He brutally attacked her with a gun in front of their young children. When the attack initially occurred, she had filed for a Relief from Abuse (RFA) order. As his criminal charges were processed, and he was eventually convicted and incarcerated, years passed and she let the RFA expire. Now that he was being released, she was in great fear that he would contact her. An RFA would provide extra security and peace of mind for her and her children.

Since he had been incarcerated, no new instances of violence could have occurred since the original RFA expired. Therefore, making the case for a new RFA would be tricky. With the help of the volunteer attorney at our legal clinic, evidence was gathered to demonstrate that her abuser had made no significant changes to his behavior while incarcerated. Because they were able to show that he continued to harass her from prison, threatening her via letters and phone calls, she was granted a new RFA. The legal clinic attorney also assisted her with filing a modification of the parent child contact and parental rights and responsibilities order, limiting her abuser’s contact with their children to supervised visitation once he was released.

Although these court orders were only one part of this person’s safety plan, it was her only means of having her abuser held accountable for his actions and to protect her children. Because of the legal clinic, she was empowered, informed and supported in navigating the legal system and bring her safety plan full circle.    


Make a gift on Tuesday Nov 29! Your gift will be DOUBLED by a generous match from our Board of Directors!

National Hunger & Homelessness Week Here at Home

November 12-20

Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness across the country and here in Vermont. Homelessness and hunger go hand in hand, leaving many to make the tough choice between housing and food.  

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, Vermont’s publicly-funded emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, and youth shelters, reported there were 4,208 persons sheltered for a total of 173,840 bed nights, 3,269 were adults and 890 were children under the age of 18, and the average length of stay was approximately 39 days (Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, Housing Opportunity Grant Programs, SFY 2016 Final Report).

Last year, Steps to End Domestic Violence provided emergency shelter to 236 adults and 98 children for a total of 17,110 bed nights.

Many who suffer from domestic violence don't leave because they do not have a place to go, shelters are full, or the fear of the unknown is debilitating.

Our 18 bed emergency shelter is typically always full. We are often trying to find alternative emergency housing for those needing safety. Due to the need for immediate, safe and confidential housing, we must limit the length of stay at our shelter. According to the National Network To End Domestic Violence, “For many survivors, the common length of stay in an emergency shelter is 30 to 60 days; however, it can take 6 to 10 months or more for a family to secure stable, permanent housing due to the shortage of affordable housing options” (Domestic Violence Counts 2015). We understand this all too well in Chittenden County, Vermont where the vacancy rate for rental units hovers around 2%.

Hunger compounds the burden for those we serve. New residents of our shelter are in immediate crisis and nutrition benefits may not have yet been applied for or approved. Last year, we spent $4,500 on food for our shelter residents, who are encouraged to create their own meals from ingredients we provide. We also receive meal donations from the community. We provide snacks for the children served in our playgroups. For those who are not living at our shelter, we provide donated toiletries, grocery gift cards and bus passes.

How does one cover housing and food costs with minimal financial resources?

It is a precarious balance. Adequate nourishment provides a sense of safety. A sense of safety that is especially important for those who are fleeing domestic violence. Many fleeing their homes also face one or more of these additional struggles:  loss of income, loss of or limited healthcare, transportation struggles, childcare, and more.

A common question is, “Why don’t they just leave?” Imagine not only being homeless, but also not knowing where your next meal will come from.

Leaving an abusive partner stops the immediate harm, but without support, leaving and finding economic security can and does force many to return or stay.

Support access to emergency shelter: Ways to give

A Survivor Speaks Out For the First Time

A survivor shared this at the Candlelight Vigil on Thursday, October 27. She gave us permission to share her story here:

It is a privilege to speak to you tonight about domestic violence awareness and the community resources available at Steps to End Domestic Violence. It is also a great personal challenge as a survivor of domestic violence for me tonight to come before you.

I am able to stand before you this evening because of the local community supports I received through Steps to End Domestic Violence.

I have come out of years of a very isolated life because of the abuse. It wasn't purposeful that I became isolated from my family, friends, and community. It was a result of the abuser's chronic behaviors to me over time.

For 22 years, I have been coping with my abusive husband and now ex-husband of five years. Although I have been divorced for five years the abuse doesn't stop; it continues.

As I speak before you today, there was a crisis today based on his abusive behaviors.

However, I have changed. I have come from years of isolation to transformation, rediscovering parts of my best self that I thought were gone forever. 

The consistent supports at Steps to End Domestic Violence helped me make these changes for myself.

Up until recently, I was utilizing Steps to End Domestic Violence supports largely for chronic crisis. Steps to End Domestic Violence provides: 24/7 hotline, emergency shelter and group support services, transitional housing, economic advocacy, legal advocacy, safety planning advocacy and support with systems, and support for children.

The life changing part for me was that Steps to End Domestic Violence supports met me where I was.

Consistently being there, working with me through each and every crisis, and each and every step of the moving forward process.

The bottom line: a consistent, predictable, safe place to be supported.

What I've learned and continue to learn with these supports is:

  • To persevere despite the abuse
  • Be persistent
  • Say NO to the fear and isolation
  • To trust my own judgement 
  • To take risks

Steps to End Domestic Violence not only helped me with all of the support systems I mentioned, but also, and perhaps the most impactful, to come out of isolation. They not only helped save my life, but also offered me the support to find my best self again.

I'm standing here today, out in public for the first time ever - to raise awareness and to be in solidarity with other survivors and supporters. I am moving forward in my life; I am making something positive out of a very abusive situation.


You can keep life-changing services free and available to those in need: Ways to Give

To share your story: Contact Us



Thank You Mary Kay Foundation

We are very excited to announce that we received a $20,000 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation℠ to support our 17-bed Emergency Shelter! This funding will allow us to conduct important repairs and ongoing maintenance at our 100+ year old shelter.

This is the third grant The Mary Kay Foundation℠ has generously given to Steps to End Domestic Violence in the past 14 years.

We especially want to thank Nan Patrick, a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant, and an incredible supporter of Steps to End Domestic Violence. Nan kindly wrote a letter of support that helped us to receive the grant. Nan has organized many fundraisers for us as well as pampering events for shelter residents over the years. Thank you so much, Nan!


The Mary Kay Foundation℠ was created in 1996, and its mission is two-fold: to fund research of cancers affecting women and to help prevent domestic violence while raising awareness of the issue. The Mary Kay Foundation℠ has awarded $54 million to shelters and programs addressing domestic violence prevention and cancer researchers and related causes throughout the United States. To learn more about The Mary Kay Foundation℠, please visit www.marykayfoundation.org or call 1-877-MKCARES (652-2737).

Nearly 600 domestic violence shelters applied for The Mary Kay Foundation shelter grants this year. Mary Kay Inc.’s global cause-related program, Beauty That Counts, helps support The Mary Kay Foundation’s annual shelter grant program. Mary Kay has a deep commitment to ending abuse and alongside The Mary Kay Foundation℠ has given $53 million to domestic violence prevention and awareness programs.

Please visit marykayfoundation.org for additional information and for the full list of 2016 Shelter Grant Recipients.

Learn more about our Shelter.

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Join us this October to honor, celebrate, and support those affected by domestic violence and the advocates that are working to end it. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) evolved from the “Day of Unity” founded in 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. DVAM has been celebrated nationally since 1987.

Domestic violence is a problem right here in Chittenden County.

Last year, the hotline fielded 4,323 calls, assisting individuals in crisis, and offering emergency services, support and referrals.

Show your support for those affected by domestic violence and help raise awareness by attending an event.


New Moon Cafe Suspended Meal & Coffee Program
All October

Clothesline Project at Saint Michael’s College
October 3 10:00 - 3:00pm

Clothesline Project at University of Vermont
October 13 10:00 - 2:00pm

Let Your Yoga Dance
October 19 6:00 - 7:15pm

October 20 All Day

Refusing Silence: Voicing our Stories
October 22 10:00 - 2:00pm
RSVP required to womenwritingvt@gmail.com

Candlelight Vigil and Survivor Speakout
October 27 6:00 - 8:00pm

All events are free and open to the public.


Questions? Contact us.

You can honor and support those affected by domestic violence: Ways to Give.

I Volunteer Because

Anne Francis of Shelburne has been volunteering on the Steps to End Domestic Violence hotline for 14 years. Anne and her husband have been married for 52 years, have raised three sons, and have seven grandchildren. Anne volunteers with three other local non-profits as well, but her journey to us, how she handles hotline calls, and her advice to other potential volunteers is priceless. 

How did you begin volunteering with us?

I followed a path which eventually led to my volunteering on the hotline. I answered an ad in the Burlington Free Press for volunteers at the VNA, in their Maternal Child Health Program. I volunteered with them for 5 years and then was offered a paid position, which I did for 12 years. I did home visits with clients supporting women, children, and their families who were coping with abuse and neglect - teaching them how to care for their children and trying to keep their families together. When I retired from the VNA it seemed that I could easily transfer my skills over to the (then) Women Helping Battered Women hotline.

Why do you volunteer so much?

If you rest too much you’ll rust. 

What specific skills and education did you bring to the hotline?

I have a Masters in Child Development & Education from Cornell University. I taught elementary school for years, including 2nd and 3rd grades and I know how to listen.

What would you say to others thinking about volunteering for our hotline?

Try it, but it’s not for everybody. If it bothers you too much, don’t stay. 

How do you handle the emotional toll of answering the hotline every week?

I have the luxury of coming in for my short shift with a positive attitude and leaving the calls at the shelter when my shift ends. If you aren't standing, you can’t hold anyone else up.

What is the hardest part of answering the hotline?

Having to tell a caller who is dealing with violence in their homes, but it’s not intimate partner violence, that we can’t help them. That is really hard. I know that this is due to funding, but it’s really hard to hear a caller’s story and then have to tell them that since what they are going through does not fit our definition of domestic violence that we can’t assist them.

What is the key to a healthy relationship and marriage that has lasted 52 years?

You must have mutual trust and respect.


Learn more about volunteering.

Introducing: Julie

Julie Coffey is the new Director of Program Services at Steps to End Domestic Violence. In this role, Julie oversees all of our direct services, including economic justice, legal advocacy, emergency housing in our shelter and Safehome programs, transitional housing, and our children's program.

We spoke with Julie to learn a bit more about her:

Q             What excites you about working at Steps to End Domestic Violence?

A             I am utterly inspired by the people I’ve met at Steps to End Domestic Violence. Every single staff person works so darn hard and each plays an essential and unique role in the lives of people who walk through “our doors.” I am also impressed by the organization’s multi-dimensional approach to combat domestic violence. It looks a lot like the 4-level social-ecological model supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which considers the “complex interplay between individual, relationship, community, and societal factors. It allows us to understand the range of factors that put people at risk for violence or protect them from experiencing or perpetrating violence.” 1

*The overlapping rings in this pictured model illustrate how factors at one level influence factors at another level.

*The overlapping rings in this pictured model illustrate how factors at one level influence factors at another level.

Having worked in the fields of mental health, sexual and family violence, and crisis response to child and family policy advocacy, it is this multi-level approach that I believe will reduce the rates of domestic and sexual violence in our communities and in our society.

Q             Where were you before this position?

A             I served as Executive Director of Building Bright Futures, the governor’s early childhood advisory council and statewide network. There I did a lot of convening, collaborating, catalyzing, and coordinating of the state council members and 12 local early childhood councils in building the quality, access, and affordability of Vermont’s system of early care, health, and education. 

Q             Having been at Steps to End Domestic Violence for a few weeks, what would you say has been the most eye opening experience for you?

A             Working in state policy advocacy for the last four years, I felt I was working on behalf of children and families, but working at Steps to End Domestic Violence I am much more connected. I love that my office is housed at the Emergency Shelter, ground zero for people starting new lives, who have recently fled a violent relationship and their children who were either victimized themselves or exposed to violence. There is no more sobering sight than looking into the eyes of a child and seeing fear or quiet sadness. No child should ever live in fear of violence.

Q             What do you like to do in your spare time?

A             Nature is church for me so I like to walk in the woods a lot. I love movies, music, books, and travel. I try to get to a beach as often as I can and now that I have recently bought a bicycle, I am going to start biking.

Q             If you had to sum yourself up in a word what would that word be?

A             Problem-Solver. That is 2 words but I hyphenated them so can I count it as one…..?


Learn more about the PROGRAMS of Steps to End Domestic Violence.



1: Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/overview/social-ecologicalmodel.html


We Stand With

With the recent overwhelming news of killings in the United States and around the world, Steps to End Domestic Violence stands in solidarity with the Vermont Network to End Domestic and Sexual Violence in support of Black Lives Matter and other organizations that seek racial justice.

At Steps to End Domestic Violence, we continuously strive to be a more culturally aware and competent organization. Every day, we work toward our mission of promoting a culture that fosters justice, equity and safety.

The recent change of our name to Steps to End Domestic Violence is part of our effort to be more inclusive of all we serve. We actively engage with community partners, law enforcement, and other service providers to learn from one another. We are committed to staff development in cultural competency, which we define as, “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system or agency in order to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.”

Through enlightening discussions as a staff, we are challenging our collective and individual biases and identifying growth opportunities. We continuously examine how we do what we do –  from how we engage with those who use our services whether in person or on the hotline, how and where we deliver our services, what fundraising activities we conduct, how we communicate via social media, or even how we communicate with our coworkers.

Much of the work we do is limited by institutions or structures that we can’t easily change, but we know there is opportunity for education and evolution. We can adapt our support to best meet the needs of those we serve, and, ultimately, be an agent for social change.  

Although our primary focus is on those affected by domestic violence, we acknowledge that domestic violence is but one form of the pervasive violence in our world. We know that ending violence means ending oppression. As an organization, we recognize how institutional racism impacts our work and those we serve. We are willing to confront the uncomfortable and examine our own privilege.

We are committed to doing what we can to evoke change here in Chittenden County and beyond. By being aware and allowing ourselves to ask questions without making assumptions, we will better serve those who seek our help. As our Cultural Competency Committee co-chair said, “Now more than maybe ever, we need to be the most culturally competent organization we can possibly be.”

School Supply Drive

It's that time of year again! 

Last year you supplied school supplies for over 40 children who have been exposed to domestic violence!

Often when a child's parent flees their abuser, they take only what they can grab. Unfortunately, that means their child doesn't have anything to start their school year with. 

You can make a difference! Please donate any of the items from the list below:

  • Backpacks (small and large)

  • Markers

  • Colored pencils

  • Pens & pencils

  • Calculators

  • 3-ring binders & filler paper

  • Spiral notebooks

  • Pencil cases

  • Erasers

  • Pencil sharpeners

  • Glue sticks

  • Kids blunt scissors

  • Report folders with pockets

  • Crayons

  • White glue

  • Small staplers & staples

Questions? Call 802-658-3131 or email ikeys@stepsvt.org


We interviewed one of our incredible volunteers, Alicia, about her involvement with Steps to End Domestic Violence:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself!

A: Hi there! I’m a student in my third-year here at the University of Vermont working on my Bachelor of Science in Nursing as well as a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. On campus, I’m involved with civic engagement organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega and Alternative Spring Break. I also am involved with the Coalition of Students Against Sexual Violence. Off campus, I work as a caregiver for families in the community and in an assisted-living facility. In my spare time, I like to make bad puns, play with dogs, and hike around the area.


Q: How did you first get involved with Steps to End Domestic Violence?

A: I first learned of the organization a few years back when I volunteered for the Phone-A-Thon. As a student, I felt disconnected from the larger Burlington community. Learning about this organization in particular opened my interest toward initiating engagement with the people and systems outside of my immediate (UVM-based) reach. I recall receiving supports from organizations similar to Steps to End Domestic Violence as a child, so the organization’s philosophy as a whole really hits home for me.


Q: How did you decide to organize a tampon and pad drive for Steps to End Domestic Violence?

A: I read an article about this issue on a national level sometime last year. It really impacted me in noticing that I had never thought about the interaction between home insecurity and menstruation. I spoke about this with a few friends and I found that the topic stimulates this resounding “A-ha!” moment. People know that tampons/pads are expensive. People know how grueling it is when you run out of supplies during a cycle. People know that there is still shame associated with menstruation. So, when people can connect all of these elements with the intersection of being a uterus-owner without a stable living environment, they understand.


Q: What surprised you most about the tampon and pad drive?

A: I was most surprised at how rapid the response was. I think there were only a few days between the initial “Hey, who’s interested?” Facebook post and seeing multiple boxes of donations come in at our desk. People began to talk about the issue and ask about how to get connected with Steps to End Domestic Violence. The amount of compassion and urgency folks exuded over supporting donations was so inspiring for me. I often tell people that student leadership, more than anything else, has taught me how to handle rejection. With the pad and tampon drive, it reminded me of how passionate and dedicated the people in our community are.


Q: How many tampons and pads did you end up receiving?

A: Sooo many! The total number was 4,290 individually wrapped pads and tampons. People donated all levels of absorbency strengths and sizes. Donations came in small single-packs as well as Costco-sized boxes!


As a side note, I want to thank you all for providing such strong supports to the Burlington community. Keep up the amazing work!

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Jessica’s Story


“I’m so excited to be here today representing an organization so near and dear to my heart! Two years ago today, March 19th, my life and the lives of my two sons with Autism were changed forever by domestic violence. My husband had a psychotic episode and attacked me with a metal baseball bat. Luckily, my sons were still at school and didn’t witness it. Within 36 hours I would be let go from my job because of this incident. My world had crashed and it was beyond frightening!

Thank God the Essex PD connected me to Steps to End Domestic Violence. I was assigned a legal advocate, Storm. She would hang out with my youngest son so I could attend the free legal clinics on Monday nights. She also assisted me with all of the paperwork for my divorce. On December 10, 2014 I came out the victor in my divorce proceedings! My ex-husband had a lawyer and I represented myself. I wouldn’t have been so successful without the support of Steps to End Domestic Violence.

I was also assigned a housing advocate, Dave. This was because I rented a house from my ex in-laws which made things more complicated. Dave and I were a team! He helped me secure a FUV [Family Unification Voucher] voucher, but finding housing in Essex Town was tricky. I didn’t want to leave the school district because of my two sons. We did become homeless for 6 weeks, but were taken in by a wonderful family in Essex. We found our new home on June 5, 2015 and still reside there. We couldn’t have done it without the knowledge, support, and advocacy of Steps to End Domestic Violence.

Dave & Storm are my heroes! I believed in them and they believed in me! That’s important. Because of their unwavering support my kids continued to do amazing at school despite all of the legal battles I went through. Steps to End Domestic Violence was a lifeline! My family’s forever grateful!

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